I really liked the idea of getting several copies of this book and circulating it through the ward, so that the sisters could be touched by the story before ever attending the event. We purchased five copies and started circulating them about a month before. The Primary President in our ward had several more copies and she lent hers out as well which helped. The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes is really a beautiful child's book about the idea of inclusion and true charity. It's also a very fast read--a quick reader could do it in ten minutes.
There are several different takes on how to incorporate the story in the book into an activity. I decided I liked the idea of donating our ward's used dresses, skirts, tops and shoes (women's and girl's) to a local shelter. We found one called The Center For Hope which helps women with children who have had substance abuse issues and are now recovering from addiction and ready to enter the workforce. They need dresses to go to interviews and once they have a job. On the posters we asked all of the women to clean out their closets and bring their stuff that night.
I assigned myself to centerpieces and I really hit the jackpot when I found another woman had blogged about how she had done the event. I can't find the link to her blog right now, but she had decided to frame photos of different dresses that she had printed on her silhouette machine. I don't own one of those nor did any of the women in our ward know someone who did, but I had something even better--a neighbor who scrapbooks and is awesome! I asked her to create dresses for me out of scrapbook paper. She hit a home run with it. I can't tell you how many compliments I got on her dresses.
So, our activity went as follows:
We provided dinner for all the women in the ward. After we had all gotten our food, I asked the woman who found our shelter to get up and describe the help our donations would provide to other women (the shelter didn't have someone available to come and speak). We also have a woman who used to work as an attorney with domestic abuse victims and she talked about how much help these women need. We then had a woman in the ward speak about taking hard situations and being positive. I had asked her several weeks before, so she could be prepared. She did a fabulous job.We then had a discussion about the book itself. The women really had a lot to say--who can't relate to this book in some way? We finished it with thoughts from a member of the RS Presidency.
Our ward easily donated over 200 dresses/skirts/tops/shoes. I have to mention that in addition to the sisters who donated, we had a husband whose wife had died last Christmas donate her clothing and shoes (she had over 200 pairs). We filled an entire van with what the sisters brought and the bed of an entire truck from the donations by the brother in our ward. I couldn't believe it. It seemed to me to be the perfect activity--service, socializing, food and discussion. I love it when an idea comes together.